Monday, March 20, 2017

Süss-saure Bratwurst -- Bratwurst in Sweet-Sour Sauce

Time-Life Books published a series called "Foods of the World".  Each small, spiral-bound book represented a country.  I have several in my collection and today's dish comes from the 1969 volume Recipes:  The Cooking of Germany.


I recall picking it up at a local library bookstore:  one summer someone donated many cookbooks and I had a grand time picking through them and bringing home new treasures.

The other day I came home with a family-size pack of bratwurst, so of course I headed to this sweet little book for inspiration!  On page 34 I found

Süss-saure Bratwurst -- Bratwurst in Sweet-Sour Sauce

To serve 4

8 bratwurst, separated
1 tablespoon dried black currants
4 whole allspice, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

It was fun crushing the allspice in the mortar.
Place the bratwurst, currants and allspice in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and pour in the water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then set the sausages aside on a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.  Let the cooking liquid settle for a minute or two, and skim as much of the fat from the surface as possible.

In a heavy 8- to 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture colors lightly.  Be careful it doesn't burn.  Pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid including the currants.  Stirring constantly with a whisk, bring the sauce to a boil.  When it is thick and smooth, reduce the heat to low, stir in the sugar and salt and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.  Slice the sausages into 1/4-inch rounds, add them to the sauce and simmer only long enough to heat them through.  Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning.  Transfer the entire contents of the skillet to a large, deep serving platter and serve at once.

My Notes

I really love the German method of cooking sausages by simmering them in a flavored liquid.  Sometimes they are cooked in a sauce, as in this recipe, and sometimes they are finished in a pan with a little butter to get them a lovely golden brown.

At the beginning of cooking.
This process, with currants and allspice, smells wonderful and tastes good.

I wasn't trying to get the sausages to 1/4-inch rounds.  I just got them somewhat close.

The sauce is easy to make.  I made sure I got a lot of the currants out of the sausage liquid and into the sauce.  It was hard to skim the fat off the cooking liquid while it was in the saucepan.  I ended up pouring it all into a big measuring cup, removed much of the top water and fat layers, and just made sure I had the one cup of reserved liquid with currants and allspice settled in it.

Thick and bubbly.
I noticed the cooked sausages were still pretty pink in the middle, so I heated them in the sauce longer than the recipe suggested just to make sure they were cooked thoroughly.  The sauce did not suffer because of it.

Stir carefully so they don't fly out of the pan.
I didn't have fresh lemon juice but I did use bottled.  I suspect you could use vinegar in its place and that might be more "authentic."

The Verdict

This was very tasty!  I thought the sweet-sour combination would be more pronounced but I found I liked it just as it was.  It did not have a strong acid "bite" nor was it very sweet.  The sauce's overall flavor was a light support for the tasty sausages.  The allspice made a nice background taste and the currants were, well, as good as currants are!  If I were to change anything, I would add more lemon juice, which would be a nice contrast to the meaty, slightly fatty bratwursts.

Success!  I served it with fresh rolls, and cantaloupe with a little of the Roman liquamen steak sauce poured over it.  Just a little, to get the hint of the umami and some of the pepper to contrast with the sweet of the melon.  The fruit marinated in it for about an hour, in the refrigerator.

I garnished the sausages with a little finely chopped parsley.
I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and the sauce was still flavorful and intact.  It had not separated at all, even after it was heated in the microwave.

Everyone agreed that they would like to have it again!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Vitellina Fricta -- Roman Empire's Veal in Sweet and Sour Onion Sauce

Just to make sure we are all together in our thoughts here, veal is unusual and expensive around here, so I used some tri-tip steaks instead.

Last month I made the Vitellina along with Patina de Persicus, a Roman Empire peach dish with cumin.  I reported on the peaches and now I am writing up the vitellina.  I waited because I found I needed to do the recipe over again.

This recipe is also from The Roman Cookery of Apicius.

ISBN 0-88179-008-7

The translated Roman recipe is:

Vitellina Fricta  -- Fried Veal (Steak)

[Combine] pepper, lovage, celery seed, cumin, oregano, dried onion, raisins, honey, vinegar, stock, wine, olive oil, and boiled wine.

Mr. Edward's redaction is:

Veal in Sweet and Sour Onion Sauce (page 204)

1 lb 1/4" veal steak


1/4 t ground pepper
1 t lovage (or celery seed)
1/4 t celery seed
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t oregano
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 T raisins
1 t honey
1 t red wine vinegar
1/4 c red wine
2 t olive oil
1/2 c veal juices or beef stock

The honey is in the canning jar.  I used marjoram instead of oregano.
Saute the meat lightly in olive oil.  Skim the fat from the frying pan, preserve juices, and finish cooking in the following sauce.

For the sauce, first grind together pepper, lovage (or celery seed), celery seed, cumin, and oregano.  Add chopped onion, raisins, honey, vinegar, red wine, olive oil, and veal juices.  Blend.  Pour the sauce into the pan with the veal, cover, and cook very gently for 1 hour.

My Notes (Attempt #1)

I had two pounds of steak so I doubled the sauce recipe.  That turned out to be unnecessary, even a bad idea as there was too much liquid.

While the steak was browning in olive oil,

I started grinding the spices to make the sauce, using celery seed for the lovage.  Then I mixed in the other ingredients and blended them.

Sans beef stock.

Sauce complete.
Then, after I drained out the excess olive oil from the pan, I poured the sauce over the meat.

I think the steak was drowning.
As I mentioned before, it was pretty full and seemed like too much liquid.  But it did encourage me to keep the fire very, very low so the whole thing was at a very gentle simmer.

It struck me that cooking for 1 hour was too long but I went ahead and followed the recipe.

At the end of the hour I used a slotted spoon to remove the meat and other chunks.  Then I spooned a little of the pan sauce over the meat and put the rest into a small pitcher for serving at the table.

The Verdict (Attempt #1)

As I feared, the meat was terribly overcooked.  Chewy, rubbery, and difficult to eat.  The onions and raisins were cooked thoroughly.  I was disappointed at the sauce's flavor.

Not quite shoe leather but close.
Here's what I noticed:  During most of the cooking time the sauce smelled delicious.  I could not wait to taste it.  By the time the hour was up, most of the flavor had cooked out of the sauce and it was dull and unexciting.  My guest tasters and I ate our first servings but no one wanted seconds or to even save the leftovers for another meal.  That is telling.

I call it a failure.  Meh.  Blah.  

But it needed to be done again.  The cooking smells were too promising to abandon all hope now.

My Notes (Attempt #2)

This time I still had two pounds of steak but I only made a single batch of the sauce.  

I followed the same procedures.

You can actually see the meat!
This time I cooked it for 30 minutes only.  I tested the doneness by cutting the meat at 20 minutes and decided it could use a little more time.

The Verdict (Attempt #2)

The meat was still thick and juicy when it came out of the pan.  Not shriveled and tough-looking.

Yes, I made the peaches again!
I thought that it was cooked just to the right amount, where it was still pink inside.  It was still tender, too.

Yum.  Oh yes, yum!
I am so glad the shorter cooking time was a good idea!  

The sauce had an inviting scent throughout the process.  When I first tasted it, I was put off by the onions still being a little crunchy.  That made their flavor more potent than I anticipated and I felt that I didn't like the sauce at all.

But after I got past that, I realized that the sauce was quite flavorful.  The celery seed made an interesting musty,  mildly bitter flavor without being overwhelming.  The pepper was just a back-up bitter.  The raisins were a lovely sweet and I wanted more of them.  I felt the wine and red wine vinegar were too much in the background to really call this sauce "sour" but they blended nicely with the honey and other flavors to give a good, rich, and umami taste.  I liked it!

If I do this again, I would add more vinegar just to get some "zing" from the acidity.

I think the onions would have cooked more if I hadn't put them almost entirely on top of the steak.  I should have let them nestle in around the meat and add their flavor to it.  An alternative is to cook the onions a little before putting them in the sauce.  I would microwave them to get them "parboiled."

Success!  We all liked the meal and we ate the leftovers the next day, which were still tasty.  We hope to make it again soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Egg Preservation -- Month Two

It has been two months since I put two dozen eggs into liquid storage.  It is time to check them out!

For the original procedure, look at the post "Preserving an Eggciting New Year."

My goal is to look at two eggs a month to see how the preservation method is working.  I wanted to use one egg that was coated with Vaseline and one that was not.

The storage container was undisturbed for the entire month.  I noticed that the "crust", which had formed in the first month but I broke up to get the eggs, had reformed.

It broke easily with my fingers and I pulled out two eggs.

The first thing I noticed about the eggs was that the Vaseline-coated one was still smooth and a little greasy but the uncoated egg's shell felt rough.  Here is a comparison between the two and a fresh:

The next thing I noticed was that the coated egg looked "mottled".

Coated egg on the left.
But they both looked good and smelled good so I went ahead and cooked them.  I fried them in olive oil separately from the fresh eggs.

First I put in the uncoated egg.

Then the coated egg.

The whites looked fresh and the yolks were both brightly colored and appealing.

I cooked them to "sunny side up" and slid them onto my plate.  They looked lovely, especially with some oven-baked bacon.

The Verdict

I tasted them plain, no salt or anything, so I could get a feel for their overall flavor.  I tried the whites alone and I could not taste a difference between them.  I did, however, taste the calcium hydroxide, which is a mineral flavor that is definitely not in regular eggs.  I did not like that extra flavor but when I put ketchup on the eggs (I know, I am a barbarian!), they tasted just fine.  The yolks were good, too, even all by themselves.

After the meal was done and I was cleaning up, I still had the mineral taste in my mouth.

I think that this far along in the experiment I am no longer interested in eating the eggs fried.  But I suspect they would work just fine in baked goods.

Success is defined as the eggs having been preserved and still edible.  I call it success.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Patina de Persicis -- A Dish of Peaches (Roman Empire)

I'm enjoying the book The Roman Cookery of Apicius by John Edwards.  It has a variety of recipes "translated and adapted for the Modern Kitchen" and that suits me just fine.  Mr. Edwards has made the adaptations very accessible for the 21st century, including his version of "fish-pickle", which is made from canned tuna or salmon (as opposed to the liquamen mentioned in this post).

ISBN 0-88179-008-7
Today I played with two different recipes to make dinner:  Patina de Persicis (A Dish of Peaches) and Vitellina Fricta (Fried Veal Steak).  I am presenting the results of the peaches recipe today and will follow up with the Vitellina next month.

The Roman version is simple (page 84):

Take peaches which have a firm texture and wash them.  Cut them into pieces and stew.  Put the peaches into a dish and sprinkle a few drops of olive oil over them.  Season with cumin, and serve.

Mr. Edward's version is also simple (page 83):

Take early peaches, wash, cut them in quarters, and remove pits.  Steam in water until soft.  Drain, reserve liquid, and put them in a cooking pot with a little of the peach liquid, a few drops of olive oil, and cumin to taste.  Simmer gently for a few minutes and serve hot.

It is not peach season right now but I really wanted to try this recipe.  So my version is simpler still:

Peaches Cooked with Cumin

Two cans sliced peaches, in light syrup or juice
Olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin

That's all!
Drain peaches; reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.  Place the peaches into a small pan.

Mix the reserved liquid, four drops olive oil, and cumin in a small bowl.

Pour over peaches and stir gently so as not to break up the pieces.

They should not be swimming in liquid.
Over medium heat, bring peaches and liquid to a gentle simmer.  Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes, until steaming hot all the way through.  Stir occasionally.

Remove peaches with a slotted spoon.  Add just a little of the liquid to the peaches in their serving dish.  Serve immediately.

Served with even less liquid in which they were cooked.
My Notes

This was my version of the recipe, so what you see above are my notes.  My canned peaches were in light syrup, so I worried that they might be too sweet.   I served the peaches with a slotted spoon so the liquid wouldn't spill all over the plate.  I served it as a side dish to the meat main course.

That dark stuff is the Vitellina
The Verdict

This was a big hit!  The cumin shifts the flavor to savory rather than sweet and that made it an excellent side dish.  One teaspoon of cumin was very good -- it was subtle and yet still noticeable and just a little spicy on the tongue.  My guest tasters and I (three in total) ate them all.  For more than three people, you will need to double the recipe, at least.

Success!  We all wanted more and I would make it again without hesitation.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Vintage California Cuisine -- Chicken in Almond Sauce

I was in the mood to try something different.  World War Two recipes came to mind but I didn't find any that peaked my interest.  Then I rediscovered a book I had purchased a few years ago after discussing California cuisine with a history nut.

ISBN 978-0-9795510-0-0
This fun little book dabbles in a variety of sources:  "300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State."  Its emphasis is to show how early California cuisine was influenced by many cultures, including New England, the South, Paris, the Quakers, the vegetarian movement in the late 1800s, and of course, Mexico.  All the books cited were published between 1872 and 1915.

The recipe that caught my interest was called "Chicken in Almond Sauce."  (page 95).  It was taken from El Cocinero Español, published in 1889 and written by Encarnación Pineda.  More on this later.

I was intrigued by the ingredient list.  Along with chicken and chorizo sausage it called for chiles, almonds, raisins, and pineapple.  I really wanted to know how those flavors combined!

Chicken in Almond Sauce

Put the stock used for cooking the hen in a saucepan.  Add sliced tomatoes, garlic, slices of peeled and cored pineapple, chorizo sausage, a tablespoon of vinegar, raisins, almonds, small pickled chile peppers, salt, pepper, and the de-boned pieces of hen.

My Notes

I cooked a 4 1/2 pound hen by simmering it gently in a pan of water.  Then I cooled both the bird and the stock, then strained the stock to remove sediment.  The remaining stock was approximately 3 quarts in volume.

To that stock I added my estimation of how much of each ingredient would make for a tasty, balanced dish.

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
4 ounce can diced mild green chiles
12 ounces beef chorizo sausage
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 ounces de-boned chicken, sliced

And the stock.
This filled my six quart pan so I brought it to a slow simmer and left it, covered, for about an hour.

The Result

My impression was that this was supposed to have a stew-like consistency.  This was not even close.  It was soup and when I tasted the broth it was weakly flavored.  The ground almonds were an unpleasant interruption in the liquid.

A beautiful color!
Should I serve it as a soup?  I didn't want to so I used a slotted spoon to scoop out the ingredients and then added just a little broth to each bowl.

I love the puffy raisins.
The stew was garnished with some shredded Cheddar cheese and served with some quality tortilla chips on the side.

The chunks of chicken are appealing.
The Verdict

It was good!  Flavorful and the surprise bits of sweetness from the pineapple and raisins was pleasant.  The chicken held together in chunks which helped the dish feel like the chicken was the focus and the vegetables were the support team.  We all liked it and had seconds.  Success!

How I Would Change My Redaction

I think that I should have placed all the ingredients in the pan and then added enough broth to make it moist enough to cook.  If convenient, you could probably put the whole thing in a casserole dish and bake it slowly to blend the flavors.

Two tomatoes was right for the amount of chicken used.  I would use two cloves of garlic, though, for more flavor and 8 ounces of the chiles as I couldn't tell they were there except visually.  One cup each of pineapple and raisins was right, too, and I think chunked pineapple would also work well.

The chorizo was put in in chunks but the long, wet cooking caused it to dissolve into little bits.  Perhaps using less liquid would keep it in larger pieces.  It did flavor the mixture nicely and color it red.  It made the dish more fatty than I like but that wasn't really a problem.

I used ground almonds because I thought they would make the dish creamy, like they do when making almond milk.  They might have if less broth was used or more ground almonds.  I don't think big almond chunks in the stew would have worked at all.  Sliced almonds may have been a good garnish.

More on Encarnación Pineda

I also have a copy of Encarnación's Kitchen, by Dan Strehl, which contains a selection of recipes translated from her book.  After cooking the Vintage California Cuisine's recipe, I looked up "Chicken in Almond Sauce" to see his version:

Aves o carnes en almondrado
(Birds or meat in almond sauce)

Grind together clean roasted almonds, a slice of toasted bread, two hard-cooked egg yolks, parsley, onions, and finely chopped garlic (understand that you should only use two or three cloves at a time).

Parboil the mixture, then add the broth the poultry or meats were cooked in. 

Then season it with cloves, cinnamon, and capers, and add wine, vinegar, and a spoonful of sugar.

Let the sauce thicken before placing the cooked poultry or meats in it.

Wow, this is very different from the version I worked with!  I'm not sure how the translations could differ so much.  I wish I could read Spanish so I could see Ms. Pineda's version myself.

Mr. Strehl's book has ISBN 0-520-23651-3.  From the comments about it, I suspect his version is more authentic than the Vintage California Cuisine's version.  But it was still good!  To be fair, Ms. Pinedo might have supplied several recipes with similar titles.  This often happens in older cookbooks.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Egg Preservation -- Month One

It has been one month since I put two dozen eggs into liquid storage.  It is time to check them out!

For the original procedure, look at the post "Preserving an Eggciting New Year."

My goal is to look at two eggs a month to see how the preservation method is working.  I wanted to use one egg that was coated with Vaseline and one that was not.

The storage container was undisturbed for the entire month.  When I took the lid off, I noticed a "crust" had formed on the surface:

I poked it with my finger and sure enough, the crust broke up like ice on a pond.

I pulled out the first two eggs I could find that met the requirements.  The first was without Vaseline so I had to touch a few others before I found one marked with the "V".  I was surprised to see the uncoated egg had split open while in storage.  It looked like the white had leaked out in a few places but had firmed up.

The split egg felt a little heavier.

For comparison, I placed a fresh egg right out the refrigerator next to the stored eggs.

Fresh egg on the left
Then I heated a cast iron skillet, coated it with olive oil, and started breaking in the eggs.  **I should have considered the split egg better.** While the fresh and the V egg broke open and emptied into the skillet just the same, the split egg almost exploded when I tapped the shell against the pan.  The contents looked scrambled and were very wet.  I wish I had thought to put it into a separate pan.

Fresh on left, V on right, split all over!
After taking the picture, I took the pan over to the sink and poured out the liquid.  That left the fresh and the V egg to cook.  I was impressed that the V egg had a beautiful yellow yolk and the white seemed to have the same texture as the fresh.  It honestly looked more appealing than the fresh because the yolk was so large and pretty.

When they were done cooking, I and a guest taster tried bites of each.  We could not taste a difference between them.  The guest could not taste a difference between them and what he was used to when eating fried eggs.  We couldn't see a difference between them, either.

I think I could taste the presence of the calcium hydroxide on both eggs.  I suspect it was from the split egg washing its contents all over the other eggs.  Now I know to avoid using split eggs!

The Verdict

Success!  The V egg was indistinguishable from the fresh egg in look and flavor after one month in a calcium hydroxide solution, in a ceramic container, in a cool room in the house.  What a boon to people who have producing hens and want to spread out the bounty over time!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Medley Pie -- Oh My!

You have to look at this website if you are a foodie, an historical cook, or an Anglophile.  Or just interested in interesting recipes!

It is The Foods of England and has an amazing selection of recipes.  Here is an excerpt from their home page:

 The Foods of England

"Cooking in England, when well done, is superior to that of any other country in the world."
Louis Eustache Ude 'Le Cuisinier français'


*Yes 'receipts' (
'recipe' is French). On the way to restoring the glory of English food - finding the story behind every single traditional dish ... 3,355 dishes listed - more than 2,500 with the original receipt - 60 Major cookbooks online totalling more than 4 million words - Food Events for every month of the year, search the lot by Counties and ... 

Honestly, you'll be amazed what this has stirred up.

When I saw this, I was excited to see what they had to offer!

My daughter was in town and she wanted to try a decorative top crust for a pie, so I perused the site and found this temptation.

Screenshot from
Medley Pie (Derbyshire Version)

10 oz plain flour
5 oz dripping
pinch of ginger or cloves
8 oz back bacon
1 large cooking apple
3 medium onions, sliced
1 teaspoon sage
egg yolk for glaze
salt and pepper

I used only two onions.
Make the pastry with the flour and salt by rubbing in the dripping and mixing to a dough with cold water, roll out 1/4 in thick and line a deep pie dish with two-thirds of the pastry.

Peel, core and slice the apples, and cut the rind from the bacon.  Arrange the bacon, apple and onion in layers in that order.  Sprinkle each layer with sage and seasoning.  Add 150 ml (1/4 pint) water or stock.  Add the cover and seal well.  Cut slits in the top and decorate.  Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake in the centre of a preheated oven at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for 40 minutes, then reduce to 150C, 300F, Gas 2 for a further 40 minutes.

If the pie begins to brown, cover with foil or greaseproof paper to prevent burning.

My Notes

We used a double batch of my daughter's favorite pie crust recipe instead (Look here, about half way down the post).  My deep dish pan needed 2/3 of that amount to be covered well without the crust being too thin.

I weighed out the bacon and actually used more like 12 ounces since eight looked, well, like too little.  Then I cut each slice in half.   I also used only two onions once they were thinly sliced.

You can see in the picture that I used fresh sage, so I doubled the amount called for.

Here is the first layer.  I used a pinch of cloves on each layer and was generous with the pepper.

Three layers filled the pan.  I did not even use all of the two onions.  Also I used chicken broth last.

My daughter had her fun with the top crust!

The egg yolk wash made the top bright yellow.

Fresh out of the oven!  The scent while baking was marvelous.  We were all hanging around enjoying it.

The Verdict

I served it with a tossed green salad, keeping the menu simple so we could focus on the flavors of the pie.

We cut thick slices.  I appreciated the layers and seeing all the goodies inside.

There were four of us at this meal.  Everyone liked what they ate!

I think I would increase the spices more and my mouth wanted more of the apple and less of the onion.  I think having similar amounts of each would be better.

We all agreed that the bacon would be better cut up into smaller pieces.  It would make it easier to serve each piece and easier to eat each bite.  But the taste was excellent!

My daughter believes that she would caramelize the onions before putting them into the pie, just to get a deeper flavor from them.

I'm not sure the 1/4 pint of liquid is necessary.  The vegetables provide moisture and the bacon enough fat to keep it from drying out.  If I were to add anything, I would put it in when the pie came out of the oven, like I did for the Elizabethan pie I made here.

Considering that nearly the entire pie was eaten at that one meal, I would call it a success!